Author Archives: mike.merchant

Texas/Oklahoma Pollinator Project

This summer Texas A&M AgriLife is conducting a citizen science project to document the preferred host plants of Texas & Oklahoma pollinators. In the process some energetic volunteers and I will be learning a lot more about how to plant a successful pollinator garden. Last week I presented information about pollinators and how the project works to volunteers in the Dallas area.  If you are signed up as a volunteer, but missed the training, an edited version of the training is available here https://youtu.be/JfSpwlYcM3s  This training should prepare… Read More →

Firefly Month (or it should be)

Flickering lights, like so many Tinkerbells, dancing across lawns are one of the special memories of growing up in the South. This time of year is your best chance to see fireflies, so this week I thought I would give a shout-out to Ben Pfeiffer, a firefly lover who has devoted himself to learning about the fireflies of Texas. Ben has built an entertaining website, called Firefly.org. In it you can learn about the different kinds of fireflies (each has a unique flash pattern), where they live and… Read More →

Multiplying millipedes

At first glance, millipedes are most remarkable for their ability to walk without tripping over their own feet.  The name millipede literally means “thousand feet” and though most don’t have that many legs, that’s still a lot of feet to keep track of. What’s even more remarkable about millipedes, once you get to know them, is their ability to reach astronomical numbers when weather conditions are prime. That’s what’s happening right now, at least in parts of north and east Texas.  For the past month Extension offices have… Read More →

Sunshine and wildflowers–its mosquito time again

Two weekends ago my wife and I went for a long bike ride. It was one of those rare, completely beautiful spring days, cool air and wildflowers lining the roads.  I knew it was going to be a long ride, and I knew the Texas sun was shining; but somehow the need for sunscreen never entered my mind (my wife had the good sense to lather up). It was a wonderful ride; but I’m still paying the price today, with the skin on my arms peeling like an… Read More →

Dr. Don R. Read

The next best thing to being great, it’s been said, is walking next to someone great. I am grateful to have had the chance to meet and get to know the late Dr. Don R. Read, who passed away on March 21, 2019. He was one of our local colorectal surgeons in Dallas, and a great man in many ways. Dr. Read made his (unfortunate) acquaintance with entomology in 2005 when he was bitten by a mosquito infected with the west Nile virus. He told his story of… Read More →

Avoid bringing bed bugs home

The fear of picking up bed bugs in a hotel room shouldn’t keep you from that next great adventure you’ve been planning.  Yes, frequent travelers do have a good chance of eventually encountering bed bugs; but a few simple steps can dramatically reduce your risk of bringing these pesky insects home. To learn more, check out this new video, produced by my colleague Dr. Pat Porter, that explains what you can do to avoid the curse of the bed bug.  And enjoy that next vacation to New York… Read More →

Bug bombs bomb

For many years the go-to solution for DIY pest control was the bug bomb.  Got fleas? Get yourself a bug bomb.  Cockroaches in the kitchen?  Bug bomb! Most recently, it’s bed bugs.  See a bed bug? Reach for the bug bomb. But do bug bombs (also known as total release aerosols) really work?  Not very well according to a recent paper was published last month in the Open Access journal BMC Public Health.  Researchers at North Carolina State University found that not only did bug bombs under-perform (not even… Read More →

Good news about monarchs, but…

  News headlines often bear a second look.  And this week’s “good news” about monarch butterflies is no exception.  News sources this week are reporting that monarch butterfly colonies covered almost 15 acres of Mexican mountainside in 2019, a 144% increase from last winter. Colony sizes are based on estimates of the total acreage of trees covered with monarchs in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico–the main overwintering site for eastern monarch butterflies. Acreage estimates provide an index as to how many butterflies survived the previous year’s… Read More →

Giving Monarchs a hand

Where have all the butterflies gone?  If you think there are fewer butterflies, and just plain bugs, on your windshield compared to a few years back, you’re probably right. Recent studies point to alarming declines in both insect and butterfly populations. Most scientists think that the primary causes for these declines are the many changes we humans are making to our environment.  As we replace plant-diverse rural landscapes with simplified urban and suburban streets and lawns, we reduce habitat abundance and food supply for butterflies, among other insects. … Read More →

Good Sams discover exotic borer in Tarrant County

Last summer Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist, Sam Kieschnick, was going through pictures on iNaturalist and saw a picture of an insect taken by someone he knew. It was a shot of a shiny green beetle that 10-year-old nature enthusiast, Sam Hunt, had snapped in his own driveway near Eagle Mountain Lake in west Tarrant County. Something about the picture bothered biologist Sam, so he forwarded it to colleagues who were experts in a group of insects called buprestid beetles. The expert consensus seemed to be that 10-year-old… Read More →